By Bruce Sayler
Ronan tackled Butte Central Friday night.
The Maroons didn’t reciprocate.
Head coach Don Peoples Jr. blamed BC’s season-opening 29-15 loss to Ronan on poor tackling by his team and missed opportunities.
“I think the key to the game was we didn’t tackle very well on third-down situations,” the 35th-year head coach at Butte Central said after the Class A high school game played on Bob Green Field at Montana Tech. “They hit us with a fake punt, and on onside kick and didn’t tackle on third down. We had another touchdown taken away by a holding call.”
However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Maroons.
“I thought (quarterback) Jack Keeley played a good ballgame,” Peoples said. “But, give Ronan credit. Their quarterback and running back ran well, ran the ball hard and we didn’t tackle well. We were in position several times to stop them on third-and-long and just didn’t tackle.”
Keeley, a senior returning starter, ran for 24 yards and a touchdown, and also hooked up with senior receiver Zane Moodry for a 54-yard scoring play as part of 112 yards through the air total for BC. Keeley’s rushing sum would’ve have been more – stacked to 46 yards at one time in the game – but for losses of yardage on four sacks late in the game.
Rain fell until midway through the third quarter, but Ronan sophomore quarterback Kolby Finley showed sprinter speed in a strong season debut with 55 passing yards and 159 rushing yards.
“I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,” Peoples said. “We will come back and get better.”
The Maroons struck first with Keeley’s 1-yard sneak late in the first quarter. An 18-yard carry by junior back Justus McGee and Keeley’s 9-yard scramble buoyed a drive to the 1 to cash in an opportunity after denying the Chiefs first crack at the end zone.
Ronan had traveled to the Butte Central 29-yard line and lost a yard when McGee, playing defensive end, caught Finley behind the line of scrimmage. Finley tried to throw for a first down on third down, but Coy Campbell, Maroon junior cornerback, picked it off and the 17-yard line and ran it back to the 46. It was where BC set up shot for the eventual Keeley TD, Butte Central’s first of the season.
Ronan tied just before the end of the period when Finley got away from the Maroons’ defense for a 46-yard dash to the end zone to tie the score at 7-all going into the second quarter.
The Chiefs owned possession of the ball for all but seven plays in the second quarter and all but one in the third while building a 29-7 spread. DaVonne Curley caught two TD passes in the second frame, one from Finley and one on a halfback pass from Laurence Lozeau for a 22-7 halftime cushion. Ronan used up 7 ½ minutes of the third quarter on a 62-yard scoring march. After Finley tallied the TD on a 4-yard keeper, the Chiefs successfully covered an onside kick, Dom McKay falling on the ball at the Butte Central 44-yard line.
The Chiefs ended up punting away the possession. The Maroons took over on their own 8-yard line and their only play of the period was a 6-yard carry by McGee before the buzzer sounded to end the quarter.
BC’s line lost junior Michael Peck to a suspected ankle injury midway through the third quarter. He was taken out of the stadium on an electric cart and didn’t return. Peoples said, after the game, he didn’t know the seriousness of the injury.
Keeley and Moodry began the fourth quarter with a 19-yard pass that took Butte Central from out from under its own goalposts. Two running plays and a penalty later, the two seniors connected for the 54-yard touchdown, Keeley hitting Moodry perfectly in stride as the BC receiver left Ronan defenders in his wake down the west sideline as he loped to the south end zone.
The clock showed 10 minutes, 13 seconds still left in the game and Butte Central had found confidence.
The Maroons forced a four-and-out and got the ball for a chance to rally. The drive died 15 plays later on an incomplete pass from the Ronan 21-yard line. BC had reached the Chiefs’ 8-yard line, Keeley was caught three times on sacks, twice by Nate Young and once by JJ Beh as both teams were pumping out the last splashes of energy they had left in their tanks.
Ronan kneeled out the last minute-and-a-half on the clock.
Peoples said he was disappointed that the team didn’t play better, but said he saw many shining spots to build on and liked how the Maroons appeared to find their rhythm later in the game. Big hits for sacks on Finley by Jake Tauscher on a safety blitz and by Tanner Keith off the line were among the BC defensive highlights. McGee and Moodry also had good defensive games from their end stations. The Butte Central air defense allowed little to the Chiefs.
The Maroons will play their first road game of 2023 next Friday when they travel to the Bitterroot Valley to test Hamilton.
Ronan 7 15 7 0 – 29
Butte Central 7 0 0 8 – 15
BC – Jack Keeley 1 run (Jack Nagle kick), 3:15. Drive – 54 yards in 8 plays. Key play – Coy Campbell 29-yard pass interception return to own 46-yard line.
RON – Kolby Finley 46 run (Jason Teague II kick), 2:18. Drive – 50 yards in 3 plays. Key play – scoring play.
RON – DaVonne Curley 4 pass from Finley (Teague kick), 4:19. Drive – 75 yards in 15 plays. Key play – Finley 8-yard run to Butte Central 16-yard line on 4th-and-8.
RON – Curley 19 pass from Finley (Dom McKay pass from Finley), :10. Drive – 53 yards in 4 plays. Key play – Finley 43-yard run to Butte Central 15-yard line.
RON – Finley 4 run (Teague kick), 4:30. Drive – 62 yards in 15 plays. Key play – Finley 17-yard run to 50-yard line on 4th-and-6.
BC – Zane Moodry 54 pass from Keeley (Moodry pass from Keeley), 10:13. Drive – 92 yards on 5 plays. Key play – scoring play.
First downs 14 14
Rushes-yards 45-210 22-67
Passes 7-11-1 8-18-0
Passing yards 74 112
Total offense 284 179
Return yards 8 29
Punts-avg. 2-44.0 2-35.0
Fumbles-lost 3-0 2-0
Penalties-yards 4-20 4-35
RUSHING – Ronan, Kolby Finley 19-159, Williames Courville 13-31, Laurence Lozeau 8-19, Tyrhen Runsabove 3-11, Team 2-(-10). Butte Central, Justus McGee 8-43, Jack Keeley 14-24.
PASSING – Ronan, Finley 6-10-1-55, Lozeau 1-1-0-19. Butte Central, Keeley 8-18-0-112.
RECEIVING – Ronan, Lozeau 4-47, Davonne Curley 2-23, Wade Qualtier 1-4. Butte Central, Zane Moodry 4-74, Ryan Peoples 2-24, Aiden Ossello 1-8, McGee 1-6.
TURNOVERS – Fumble recoveries: None; Pass interceptons: Ronan 0, Butte Central 1 (Coy Campbell).